The 'Only' Core Principle: Relentless Customer Service

John Tschohl Headshot

Over the decades I’ve been researching and speaking, it has become very clear to me that:

  • The most successful organizations in the world — business, government and non-profit — keep customer service at the center of their work.
  • Those that are the most customer-service driven maintain that focus relentlessly.
  • The biggest reason most are not customer-driven is that they are not willing or able to be relentless.
  • Far more organizations could be much more successful if they had a relentless customer service focus.
  • If you want your organization to grow and succeed long term, you’ve got to be a service leader. To do that, you have to be “Relentless.” It has to be a lifetime commitment. Lots of executives talk about their focus on customer service. Most can’t, or more likely, won’t sustain it.

For years, I’ve watched organizations spend millions on advertising to attract customers. But then, by neglecting a single core principle, they drive their customers away. TD Ameritrade spends over $100 million on advertising, and their customer service is terrible. In October 2016, they paid $4 billion to buy Scottrade who had awesome customer service and then in a matter of months, drove customers like myself away with inferior customer service.

The problem is that when it comes to customer service, very few CEOs, and as a result, very few organizations are “Relentless." Some focus on customer service for a month, a year; some for six years. Walmart quit after 18 years. Very few leaders are willing to be constantly, permanently focused on customer service.

A focus on customer service can’t be an add-on. It can’t be for a while. It can’t occur under one chief executive and then be forgotten with the next. It has to be part of the organization’s culture, and it can’t be B.S. If you’re going to be successful, you have got to be “Relentless," today, tomorrow and for all time.

Too often, the financial people take over. They only look at numbers. They don’t care about the customer experience and customer service, so they cut those programs. Financial people rarely understand the importance of customer service, and so their businesses fail to be as great as they could be.

If your goal is to build an organization around the customer experience, you’ve got to be “Relentless." Amazon and Jeff Bezos are among the most “Relentless” in the world. Costco is “Relentless." The management of Southwest Airlines stays “Relentless." Vernon Hill of Commerce, Metro and Republic Banks remains “Relentless." with Marc Benioff is “Relentless.”

The Mayo Clinic a not-for-profit organization is every bit as “Relentless” as any for-profit company in the world. Once you open your eyes to it, you can find shining examples of organizations and leaders staying “Relentless” year after year after year.

Sadly, there are countless cases of organizations not being “Relentless." There are plenty of examples where a company was “Relentless” then lost that focus (and became less successful). We’re not going to waste time on them.

In my new book (coming this September), I want to show you how to be “Relentless” — to make your organization succeed.


John Tschohl is a professional speaker, trainer and consultant. He is the president and founder of Service Quality Institute (the global leader in customer service) with operations in over 40 countries. John is a self-made millionaire traveling and speaking more than 50 times each year. He is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on service strategy, success, empowerment and customer service in the world. John’s monthly strategic newsletter is available online at no charge. He can also be reached on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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